Wednesday marked the first anniversary of the start of the Marawi siege, which claimed more than 1,000 lives, affected 24 villages in the city, reduced to rubble 250 hectares of land and displaced hundreds of thousands of residents.
It took the government a martial law declaration in Mindanao and five months to kill the leaders of the siege and quell the attack.
A year on, however, the people remain besieged. According to the Red Cross, food supply is dwindling as efforts move from emergency response to early recovery. Transition houses are not enough and thousands continue to languish in dire circumstances, with poor water, power, and sanitation. Livelihood opportunities have reached only a portion of the number who actually need them.
Worse, the threat lingers. The leaders of the siege may be dead but the possibility of new terrorists coming in, joining forces with local groups and recruiting impressionable and desperate young Muslims, remain present. Analysts warn that they can capitalize on the dissatisfaction of the people.
These threats have an implication on the safety of the rehabilitation workers as well.
Finally, how will those handling the funds—the national government has earmarked P72 billion for the rehabilitation program and numerous groups have pledged support to rebuild Marawi—be made accountable should they misuse the much-needed money?
President Duterte said he did not go to Marawi on Wednesday because he did not wish to honor the terrorists. He would rather commemorate the liberation in October.
But remembering that liberation five months from now will be more meaningful if the people also were made free from the ills that still bring them down to this day.